46 Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
49 John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.”
50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”
51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”
The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
60 But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”
62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Several small scenes in today’s reading. First, Luke tightens up the argument over who is the greatest (right after Jesus has predicted his death, sheesh). Jesus doesn’t question them or moralize like he seems to in Matthew and Mark. No encouragement to be like little children, just a statement that they are just as capable of bringing in the kingdom of God as anyone, more capable of those who think too highly of themselves. Luke makes the matter much more straightforward. I was at the Vineyard National Conference in Anaheim last week. A main focus there was getting kids and teens involved in doing kingdom work because they pray as well as anyone and they hear from the Lord as well or better than adults. Kids in our church pray for adults and do get prophetic words for them and do see their prayers answered. Luke moves the understanding in this direction.
Then we get two small, related stories, where John tries to stop ‘unauthorized’ exorcisms and he and James want to take a page from Elijah’s book and call down fire on people for not being hospitable. Luke shows a penchant for irony by placing the first just after the ‘authorized’ disciples have been unable to cast out a demon. Jesus’s response turns our typical logic on its head. We tend to think whoever is not for us is against us, but Jesus assures John that whoever is not against us is for us. If various Christian churches ever took this attitude toward each other, we would see the kingdom breaking through in new and exciting ways. In the second, Jesus shows he favors moving on to the next town over drone strikes.
Finally, Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem and begins the journey that will take up the next nine chapters in Luke. The final dialogues create a real sense of movement. Jesus is on the move, are you coming or staying? Two volunteer, two are called by Jesus, and all four have their commitment tested. These short exchanges show that Jesus was looking for people who were all in, even willing to leave behind cultural and social duties. Jesus is still looking for people who will make this commitment level and he will take anyone who is all in. Children are more likely to make and keep such commitment because they are far less likely to be choked out by the cares of this life. They trust more naturally, pray more honestly, and when they see that trust validated through answered prayer, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit they are less likely to ever turn back. Our kids can teach us to trust, hope, love, believe, and pray. They can lead us into the kingdom. Are we willing to follow?
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.